There have been many films and stage productions about salesmen. They often point out the sharks, the funny guys and the ones who truly need to make sales to survive. Steve Butler (Matt Damon) is kind of a mix of all of these in Promised Land. He's a corporate salesman for Global Crosspower Solutions, a natural gas drilling company sent to McKinley in mid-town America to buy up farmer's land so his company can drill on it.
Steve and his partner, Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand), hit another small town expecting to make easy work of reminding the townspeople they are struggling financially. They begin to make house calls and hang out at the local pub to get to know the residents better. Thats where Steve meets teacher Alice (Rosemarie DeWitt) and the two have an instant spark between them.
Some of the farmers like Steve’s charisma when they learn he's from a farming area, and buy into the idea of selling some of their land to the drilling company. At town hall meetings the majority is talked out of letting the company extract gas from oil shale on their property, with a not-stop appeal for the townsfolk to wake up and come to their senses by Frank Yates (played marvelously by Hal Holbrook.) Frank is the town’s high school science teacher and a former R&D engineer for Boeing. He's sincerely worried about his town.
Things get really messy when a hungry Dustin Noble (John Krasinski) shows up in town warning against listening to Steve and Sue because they lie about the damage the drilling will do to their property. Dustin and Steve end up going head to head not only at the local pub and town hall meeting, but also over Alice. She seems torn between which guy she believes is best for her and her own homestead in McKinley.